Montana bill would allow students to misgender classmates

Feb 8, 2023, 1:51 AM | Updated: 5:53 pm
FILE - Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Montana state Capitol protesting anti-LGBTQ+ legisl...

FILE - Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Montana state Capitol protesting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Helena, Mont., March 15, 2021. More than two dozen Republican Montana lawmakers are co-sponsoring a bill that would allow students to misgender and dead-name their transgender peers in a move that has alarmed LGBTQ activists and others who argue it would allow the bullying of a population of kids already struggling for acceptance. (Thom Bridge/Independent Record via AP, File)

(Thom Bridge/Independent Record via AP, File)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana schools would not be able to punish students who purposely misgender or deadname their transgender peers under a Republican-backed legislative proposal that opponents argue will increase bullying of children who are already struggling for acceptance.

The proposal, co-sponsored by more than two dozen GOP lawmakers, would declare that it’s not discrimination to use a classmate’s legal name or refer to them by their birth gender. Schools would be prevented from adopting policies to punish students who do so.

It comes amid a wave of legislation this year in Montana and other conservative states seeking to limit or ban gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth. Montana’s Senate passed a ban on gender-affirming medical care or surgery for minors on Wednesday.

But the proposal on misgendering and deadnaming is apparently the only existing legislation of its kind in the country this year, said Olivia Hunt, policy director for the National Center for Transgender Equity.

“This would make Montana unique in enshrining the right to be bigoted toward or the right to bully trans children in the state code,” Hunt said.

The proposal would not apply to teachers, but some states are considering bills that would protect teachers’ rights to refer to students by their birth names and gender.

The main sponsor, Rep. Brandon Ler, said Wednesday during a hearing that his children, who live on a farm and ranch, “have learned from a very young age that cows are cows and bulls are bulls” and that such facts are not up for interpretation.

“Children should not be forced to call somebody something they’re not,” Ler said.

Opponents agreed that students who accidentally use a wrong pronoun or name should not be punished, but said schools should still be able to respond to purposeful misgendering and deadnaming, perhaps under an anti-bullying policy. Refusing to acknowledge a transgender student’s preferred name and pronouns amounts to bullying, said SK Rossi, testifying on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign.

“The problem with the bill is that it takes away the ability of schools and teachers and administrators to intervene when something becomes cruel, before it becomes physical,” Rossi said.

The issue of punishment for misgendering or deadnaming doesn’t appear to be a problem in Montana, according to Emily Dean, director of advocacy for the Montana School Boards Association. She said she was unaware of any students who had been punished for such actions.

Max Finn, a transgender middle schooler from Missoula, said he faces backlash from fellow students, including having crude remarks made about him and being tripped in the hallway, even though his teachers try to stop it from happening.

“If my teachers can’t or won’t intervene, it gets much worse,” Finn said.

People representing educational organizations, pediatricians, parents of transgender children and students testified against the bill, saying it would lead to unchallenged bullying and harassment as well as anxiety and depression among transgender students.

Layla Riggs told lawmakers about defending friends who were being bullied because they are transgender or gender nonconforming. Someone once threw rocks at her and a nonbinary friend after school, she said.

“School is supposed to be a place where you are accepted and a place where your safety is supposed to be one of the top priorities,” Riggs testified. “With the passage of this bill, even the illusion of safety for transgender and nonbinary students would be gone.”

A survey by The Trevor Project in 2022 found that 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous year, but that those who were supported socially or at school reported lower rates.

Jeff Laszloffy with the Montana Family Foundation told lawmakers his group supports the measure because it would avoid students possibly facing civil lawsuits over using the wrong pronoun or name. He was the lone supporter to testify in a hearing that ended without lawmakers voting on the measure.

Richard Schade told lawmakers his 9-year-old nonbinary stepchild is bullied on a near daily basis with little to no intervention from school administrators.

“This demonstrates that the stated purpose of (the bill) is to address a problem that doesn’t exist, and that the real intent is to send a message to trans kids that they deserve to be bullied because of who they are,” he said.

During his testimony against the bill, Montana Pride President Kevin Hamm intentionally misgendered Laszloffy and a male lawmaker who had earlier sought to block opposition arguments that the bill would lead to bullying. Hamm said he wanted to hear “her” reasoning on that.

“Does she feel that misgendering isn’t a bullying tactic?” Hamm asked.

At that point, Rep. Amy Regier, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, interrupted, saying: “Please don’t attack other testimony.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Hamm retorted. “Is it a bullying and an attack? So you do understand what this bill will do. Thank you for proving my point. Don’t enshrine a tool for bullying into the law.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


File - Credit cards as seen July 1, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. A low credit score can hurt your ability...
Associated Press

What the Fed rate increase means for your credit card bill

The Federal Reserve raised its key rate by another quarter point Wednesday, bringing it to the highest level in 15 years as part of an ongoing effort to ease inflation by making borrowing more expensive.
1 day ago
police lights distracted drivers shooting...
Associated Press

Authorities: Missing mom, daughter in Washington found dead

A missing Washington state woman and her daughter were found dead Wednesday, according to police.
1 day ago
Associated Press

Google’s artificially intelligent ‘Bard’ set for next stage

Google announced Tuesday it's allowing more people to interact with “ Bard,” the artificially intelligent chatbot the company is building to counter Microsoft's early lead in a pivotal battleground of technology.
2 days ago
Evelyn Knapp, a supporter of former President Donald, waves to passersby outside of Trump's Mar-a-L...
Associated Press

Trump legal woes force another moment of choosing for GOP

From the moment he rode down the Trump Tower escalator to announce his first presidential campaign, a searing question has hung over the Republican Party: Is this the moment to break from Donald Trump?
3 days ago
FILE - The Silicon Valley Bank logo is seen at an open branch in Pasadena, Calif., on March 13, 202...
Associated Press

Army of lobbyists helped water down banking regulations

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Red-state Democrats facing grim reelection prospects would join forces with Republicans to slash bank regulations — demonstrating a willingness to work with President Donald Trump while bucking many in their party.
3 days ago
FILE - This Sept. 2015, photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows an aerial view of adult female South...
Associated Press

Researchers: Inbreeding a big problem for endangered orcas

People have taken many steps in recent decades to help the Pacific Northwest's endangered killer whales, which have long suffered from starvation, pollution and the legacy of having many of their number captured for display in marine parks.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Montana bill would allow students to misgender classmates